Do you find yourself dwelling on your partner’s past relationships, obsessing over their former flames, and feeling an overwhelming sense of jealousy that just won’t quit? If so, you might be experiencing what’s known as retroactive jealousy, and you’re not alone.
As I’ve explained in an earlier post, I struggled with retroactive jealousy for a long time. It took quite awhile to really come to terms with it, because there are so many factors that contribute to someone developing retroactive jealousy in a relationship.
#1 Anxious attachment personality
People who have an anxious attachment style which stems from a childhood where the caregiver was actually not very consistent with the way that they actually showed up for the child. This can leave the child feeling rather insecure and unsure about themselves.
This manifests into a personality that is afraid of their partner leaving them for someone else, constantly needing to prove their love and anxious/nervous about the partner’s feelings for them. Anxious attachment styles can make someone fearful of their partners leaving them and can have trust issues too (as explained below).
This style can actually make someone more prone to worrying, neurotic behaviour – constantly needing their partner to assure them of their love, more obsessive and as a result, more prone to retroactive jealousy.
Do you suffer from retroactive jealousy and feel stuck? Find out below!
#2 Distrustful of people
For those that are prone to retroactive jealousy can actually be people who just don’t innately trust others. It is sometimes not even something their partner is saying or doing that makes them distrustful, but people with a tendency to be distrustful of others always feel like the other person is hiding something, or misrespresenting reality.
This mistrust of people is what can really trip people who are prone to RJ in a relationship – they do not trust what their partner says about their past, so they constantly grill and ask for many details that actually worsens their RJ and makes them more upset.
#3 Possessive – my partner is mine
Many people prone to RJ tend to be over-possessive of their partners, to the point where they feel like they own them – body, mind and spirit. Of course this is not something that is consciously felt or experienced by the partner with RJ. But at the root of many of these RJ situations, because they see their partner as belonging to them – though many RJ-prone people are not aware of this – which is why they feel a deep sense of betrayal when they find out their partner has been with others or has liked other people before, or slept with other people before.
To the RJ-prone person, their partner cannot love, sleep with or like anyone other than them their whole lives, This doesn’t sound rational, but RJ isn’t a very rational emotion (see the contradiction here). Of course, there is also a need to assess if the RJ is actually stemming from a lack of compatibility in sexual or relationship values.
#4 Have alot of hangups and beliefs about love that do not reap results
For instance, getting hung up about the fact their partner held hands with other women/men they dated before and obsessing over that detail. Or holding beliefs about relationship or sexual purity (nothing wrong about this by the way, we all have different values and it’s about finding someone that has the same ones as you). Or a big one – beliefs that if a person has dated or has had several relationships before – that they are not a “good” person or a good fit for you, or that they won’t love you and you don’t feel as special because you are not the “first”. There can be this hangup over being the partner’s first for everything.
#5 Obsessive-compulsive thinking, similar to limerence
One of the biggest features of retroactive jealousy – similar to limerence – is the obsessive quality of it. People prone to RJ normally fixate on a specific quality of their partner, which they deem to be not acceptable. For most of RJ-prone people, it’s the partner’s past, so they will ruminate and wonder and fixate on what happened between their partner and an ex before them.
Coupled with an anxious attachment style, inaccurate beliefs about love, low self-worth and not being able to let go of things – the overthinking and rumination can lead them to a very upsetting and dark place. Usually what is being imagined by them is more exaggerated and more painful than what could have happened.
This obsessive quality is what keeps an RJ-prone person stuck in a trap of always feeling inferior and second-best to a memory of a person who no longer exists in their partner’s life.
#6 Stubborn-ness and fixed mindsets
RJ-prone people can be pretty fixated and stubborn about how their partner should be and that love should be a certain way. There can also be an existence of a certain “transactional” nature concerning the relationship, like their love can only be doled out on certain conditions. I.e. I can only love you if you have a certain past, or I can only love people who are a certain way.
And like I’ve mentioned before, love isn’t about conditions. Yes, of course there is a criteria and we should only let in people that have certain qualities. When you truly love someone, you want to be happy for them, you want the best for them. Love isn’t really about fixating about a quality on a person and feeling bad about it, that’s not really love – think about it.
A big part of being prone to RJ is the lack of self-worth and self-esteem that you struggle with. Start building that up from within with the guidebook that I’ve created just for you.
#7 Unrealistic, idealistic expectations of a person; the “perfect, flawless” partner
Like I’ve mentioned above, a person that is prone to RJ tends to have a fixation on their “ideal type” of partner. Anyone that falls outside of that ideal type is just seen as flawed. Something that I’ve seen many RJ-prone people say is that they feel that their partner is no longer ideal to them because they have a certain type of romantic history or past, so they are no longer flawless.
The thing is, all of us are flawed, we just differ in our flaws. And this also goes back to what you want in a partner – do they fit your values? If they don’t, then end things early. And also, ask yourself – are you not talking about the difficult things upfront, whilst you are dating and determining things about the person?
Because if you did and you found out that someone has certain things about them that you do not like, you could have ended things earlier when there were less feelings invested. But because so many people date without intention and without proper communication, they find out alot of unexpected things about their partner when they are deep into the relationship. Then they feel trapped and resentful.
The perfect partner does not exist.
So taking all of these qualities into consideration, it’s easy to see how certain people can be more prone to RJ. However, being prone to it does not mean that one cannot heal at all. RJ is also based off alot of patterns and beliefs, if you are willing to work on those – you will find that it will no longer be present in your relationships.